I remember the first time I heard my child use a swear word. He did not know what it meant, and its context was so funny I laughed. Seeing my reaction, my son, who was just three years old at the time, decided to not just say it again, but sing it at the top of his lungs. Once I pulled my composure together, my parenting sense kicked in, and I told my son he is not use that word again.
Unfortunately, cursing is becoming more common place in our society. A recent survey commissioned by Care.com found that eighty-six percent of parents believe that the current generation of children are cursing more and using inappropriate language at an earlier age than when they were kids.
So why do kids curse? For younger children it is just part of language learning. They don’t understand “taboo” words and mimic speech and phrases that they hear. As children get older, they hear this language at the playground, on cable television, in their music, and at the movies. Due to peer pressure, a desire to impress their friends, or to be part of the group, these inappropriate sayings start getting more use.
Parents need to take control of this situation. Different ages, however, deserve different rules and explanations. Typically, until around age six, kids should be told to not use those words and that they are bad. No further clarification is needed. As kids get older and can understand more abstract concepts, more explanation is warranted. This often means defining words along with a serious talk about how to appropriately express feelings.
As kids enter the teen years, when cursing peaks, drawing appropriate boundaries becomes the issue. Teens will use profanity around their peers and there is nothing a parent can do about it except monitor the situation and set some ground rules. Angst-ridden adolescents should never cuss at school, around adults, or in public. Also, their language, while bad, should be an expression of frustration or an appropriately used adjective; it should not be part of a mean, angry attack on another peer. If these types of rants frequently occur, it is not only unacceptable, but it may also be the sign of a bigger problem.
Lastly, parents need to set the example and stop cussing themselves. Below are some strategies to assist with making your household profanity free.
• Just Say No – tell your children curse words are not acceptable. Consider brainstorming some more acceptable words that can be used in their place.
• Be Honest – if you child hears you cuss and calls you out, explain that you struggle with this issue. It will have the added bonus of making your child feel like he is facing an adult problem.
• Create Consequences – add a chore around the house or take away screen time. Tell your child up front so he or she knows what to expect.
• The Swear Jar – create a financial penalty for the use of profanity. Typically parents put “way” more money in the jar than the kids. Then use the cash for a fun family activity.
• Correct Guests- if you hear a guest swear, ask them politely not to use those words. If they persist, pull them aside and explain that you are trying to teach your children those words are not acceptable.
• Beware of TV and Movies – even when you think your young child is not paying attention, they probably are.
• Check in with the Babysitter – many teens curse unconsciously when they are talking or texting on their phones. If you feel this is your babysitter, ask her to refrain. Most will politely comply.
*Some of the above strategies are taken from Care.com